Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Meditation on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007
Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 15: 1 - 2, 22 - 29

1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.

22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsab'bas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23 with the following letter: "The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili'cia, greeting. 24 Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."

Psalms 67: 2 - 3, 5 - 6, 8

2 that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!
5 Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!
6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.

Revelation 21: 10 - 14, 22 - 23

10 And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed; 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

John 14: 23 - 29

23 Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. 25 "These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, `I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe.

For those that have eyes and see through them, and ears, and listen through them, they are a clear directive against the relativism that has overtaken our society and crept into our church…

I may seem to be starting from the tail-end of things – However I ask you to keep in mind the following concepts, on which I am building my thoughts. The readings of this week are a story of the continuum of the plan of salvation and I summarize them as follows: –

1. God, the source of everything
2. Christ as the “Mediator and fullness of All Revelation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC)
3. The Church as the “transmission of Divine Revelation” (CCC)

1. God, the source of everything

In the Gospel Jesus reveals to us more of the mystery of who God is and the Holy Trinity. How many times have we ranted the Creed without thinking about what we are really saying? We commence by saying “We believe/I believe”. What is it that “we believe”? The Creed is a proclamation of our faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that “Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man…” (CCC 26).

Fr. Wulstan Mork OSB in his book “Transformed by Grace” explains God, in the best humanly possible form of explaining, as a being essentially involved in knowing and willing himself. The Son is God’s knowledge of himself, while the Holy Spirit is God’s love of himself. Keeping this in mind, the Gospel passage we are presented with this Sunday has several words that stand out: “word”, “love” and “peace”. These are key words or key actions relating to God and who he is. Now, the Catechism tells us that “God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son” (CCC 73)….and in this Gospel we are shown more of who God is through the words of Jesus.

2. Christ as the “Mediator and fullness of All Revelation” (CCC)

In the Gospel Christ tells us to keep his “word” and in this way we express our love for him. Now Christ is THE “Word” (Jn 1:1-2) that comes from the Father. In the Eternal Word, that is, in Jesus, we see an expression/a revelation of God’s knowledge of himself Thus in keeping with Christ’s word, we come to know God and be in closer union with God and thus are able to love God. When Christ talks about God the Father’s love for those who keep Christ’s word one might say “does God not love each one of us irrespective?” I personally feel that in these words Christ is telling us that by listening to his word, we learn about God and thus are able to love God and in doing so we also open ourselves to God’s love. Think about this in human terms – when we fall in love with someone, don’t we first come to know them? Don’t we also need to be open to them for them to be able to love us? So it is with God.

But to know God we need help and Christ reveals to us where that help will come from –the Holy Spirit who “will teach [us] all things”. I stated earlier that the Holy Spirit is God’s love of himself. Where is the link? Let us recall back to Easter evening when Christ “breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit….’” (Jn 20:22). Thus the Spirit is the breath of Love of God – metaphorically speaking in the same way as a lover sighs a sigh of love towards his lover. From true love then comes the true peace – the peace that we so yearn for, however we appear to not have grasped this concept so well, as human beings.

This explanation in no way touches the real complexity of God. However it should not let it discourage us but should give us some insight into the spiral of infinite love that God truly is and the reason of why we are here and why the Church exists (which is the next peace of the puzzle).

Thus in this gospel we can say that we are being presented with the source and foundation of our being, of our faith, of the Church, in whom we all have to be grounded - The one God, the Holy Trinity – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the one and only source of the Word, of Truth, Love and Peace.

The church’s role in all of this is to transmit this message.

3. The Church as the “transmission of Divine Revelation” (CCC)

The reading from the book of revelation is fascinating and truly a wonderful explanation of what the Church is. The Church is described as the “holy city, Jerusalem coming out of heaven from God”. This is exactly what the Church is with its foundation laid firmly in Christ. We have the grace of belonging to God’s church but it is not our doing. It is a gift to us from God – his way of bringing us back to him.

The continuity of God’s plan is evident in this reading too. The names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed on the gates of the wall of the city. The Church tells us that “God chose Abraham and made a covenant with him and his descendants” (CCC 72). Thus Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (who was given the name Israel) and his sons making up the foundation of the twelve tribes of Israel formed the “gateway” through which God revealed himself to us.

The universality of the mission of the Church is reflected in the gates of the city that face all directions of the winds. It exists not to save the select few but to bring all of humanity back to Christ. This is after all what Catholic means. However, to do that it needs to have a solid foundation and never deviate from its foundation.

The foundation of the Church lies on the “twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the lamb”. There can be NO deviation nor compromise. The teachings of Christ are handed down to us from the apostles through the Church and can never be antiquated. Christ is God and is ever present and so are His words. There is no past, no future – only the present for him. Thus, there is no such thing as the “Church needs to change it’s thinking on such and such” or “needs to move with the times”. If it did it would be the equivalent of moving itself off the foundation of the apostles. This obviously is not easy for many to accept, however there is NO compromise or alternative to the truth/reality!

This is where the Magisterium or teaching body of the Church gets its authority. Therefore, it is not as some think – it is not a single person speaking of his own will or even a group of people – What the church teaches is what God is directing it to teach first and foremost through his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ and ultimately through the apostles and unfailingly through the ages, through the continuous apostolic tradition. Thus there is an undeniable basis for the authority of the Church that we MUST respect and accept with humility.

We are told that John, in this vision saw “no temple….for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb”. This phrase takes us further into the makeup of the Church. Christ himself tells us "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (Jn 8:12). In the psalms we are told "The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation" (Ps 27:1). The Church acknowledges this. In fact in the Vatican Council document, the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, this document, starts with the words “Christ is the Light of nations” (Lumen Gentium). The Church is the vessel for the dissemination of this light throughout the world. Thus, at the core of the Church is Christ who lights its way. Irrespective of the human faults that fill the church, nothing can diminish or alter that light which energizes the Church. When we look around us and see all the issues that have arisen in the past years, this is not always easy to grasp, however it is an undeniable truth that the church with Christ as its light and built as the reading tells us earlier, upon the foundation of the Apostles and Peter as the rock “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

This leads us into the final reading of today – well really it was the first reading. What is very evident here is the procedure that was followed by Paul and Barnabas clearly sets a good example to us as to how and where we should look to get direction and guidance. Paul, a Pharisee, could have pretended to know “everything”. However Paul was humble enough to submit to the authority of the Church and set out to Jerusalem, no easy journey by the standards of those days, to seek the advise of the teaching authority of the church – the Magisterium. With the support of Judas and Silas as well as a letter of support and explanation, the church leaders seek to clarify matters that were acting as stumbling block to some of the church faithful. This is the same procedure that is used now, two thousand years later. In reality, what I should say this is the procedure used by those, archbishops, bishops, priests and lay people alike that are FAITHFULL to the faith and the church. In this day and age we have many who don’t.

There are many amongst the faithful and the clergy that have gone astray. Satan and the winds of permissiveness and, one would go as far as saying, of apostasy have unfortunately penetrated into the church – something which should not surprise us given the growth in pride and loss of focus of many who are in a position to lead and teach the people of God. In addition, we have the unheeded and trivialized warnings that our blessed Mother gave us in Fatima and other places, as well as what the Lord himself told St. Faustina. In one diary entry St. Faustina says ‘…the Lord Jesus began to complain about the souls of religious and priests, about the lack of love in chosen souls…. “souls without love and without devotion, souls full of egoism and self-love, souls full of deceit and hypocrisy, lukewarm souls who have just enough warmth to keep them alive: My Heart cannot bear this…..I called convents into being to sanctify the world through them…..The great sins of the world are superficial wounds on My Heart, but the sins of a chosen soul pierce My Heart through and through…”’ (Diary, 1702)

These issues result when individuals lose their focus or rather, when the focus changes from Christ to “me”. We are a society that have become so egoistic and narcissistic that that we have selectively and knowingly blocked Christ out of our lives. For many the Eucharist is not the “source and summit of our life” anymore and what about the respect and love that Christ is owed when we enter the Church, the way we dress in Church, when we receive communion, time in adoration? Christ and his bride the Church are treated worse than a second class citizens and worst of all by CATHOLICS THEMSELVES and EVEN WORSE BY MANY IN THE PRIESTHOOD. Strict adherence to what Christ taught and teaches us through the authority of the church has been lost. Pope Benedict in the pre-conclave sermon addressed this issue as he has done previously in the past and still does. He asks us “How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires

This criticism is not solely for “them out there”– it applies to each of us. But how seriously do we take the Pope’s concern? What are we doing about it? Are we ones to defend his Church and his loyal priests and the teachings of the faith at work, or when it is attacked in the media? Are we instead on the malicious bandwagon doing Satan’s work with many out there, including many in the media? How seriously do we take the readings of this Sunday? Do we profess to believe in the apostolic tradition and apostolic succession and in the teaching role of the Magisterium and on the other hand do what WE want liturgically, morally etc etc etc.? Do we have the humility of the apostle Paul, who though knowledgeable still sought the guidance of the apostles?

May 13th is the feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. How appropriate that these readings should fall on this day. Here we have two essential “components” of the Church - Our Lady as Jesus’ mother could have assumed or wished for any authority above and beyond the apostles…..however she did not. The same humility present when she first accepted the call from God to be the Mother of the Christ, was present afterwards. Thus we have here the greatest model of humility that we should strive towards after the example that God himself gave us when he became man. The Blessed Mother’s focus was God, her guide was God, her will was God’s – “May it be done unto me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). How many in the Church, clergy and lay, and yes it includes each one of us, myself included have the humility of Mary – to let go of ourselves into God’s hands and let him guide us, be our focus and pray that our will is in conformity with God’s will….or have we let Satan take control. These problems stem from one source – the outright intentional disregard and lack of focus on the Eucharist and Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist and the proportional increase of focus on the self. The Blessed Sacrament is what energizes the Church. It is that beacon of light that directs the Church and yet how many look towards the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of our lives? If as Catholics we value this most blessed of all sacraments, the giving of Christ himself to us for all ages as our nourishment, do we proclaim it in the way we act? Every time we receive communion, is it out of habit? Or is it an act of faith? Do we heed Christ’s words in John 6 “Amen, Amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink my blood, you do not have life within you…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him”? or do we like some of his disciples question Christ’s sanity? Or doubt his words? Or say that they are metaphorical? How serious are we when we receive communion? Do we spend any time in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, face to face with Jesus or do we leave him alone in total desolation in an act of pure intentional disregard?

This is my meditation on the readings of the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2007. I hope my thoughts challenge the reader to think about his/her true calling within the Catholic Church.

God Bless


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